Called to Serve: Toward a Philosophy of Ministry -- By: J. Gary Inrig

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 140:560 (Oct 1983)
Article: Called to Serve: Toward a Philosophy of Ministry
Author: J. Gary Inrig

Called to Serve: Toward a Philosophy of Ministry

J. Gary Inrig

[J. Gary Inrig, Pastor, Bethany Chapel, Calgary, Alberta, Canada]

“The thing that you are doing is not good. You will surely wear out, both yourself and these people who are with you, for the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone” (Exod 18:17–18). Jethro’s ancient warning to his son-in-law has lost none of its cogency in the present world. Faced with an onslaught of needs and a barrage of demands, the servant of God is tempted to jump, Moses-like, on a treadmill of activity. But as Thomas Carlyle observed a century ago, “Nothing is more terrible than activity without insight.” Unless service for the Lord is guided by biblical insights, it will be frustrating and possibly even destructive. A biblical philosophy of ministry can help determine one’s priorities and shape his activities.

According to Websters Collegiate Dictionary “ministry” involves “the office, duties, or functions of a minister,” who is, in turn, defined as “one officiating…in church worship” or “a clergyman especially of a Protestant communion.” While this undoubtedly reflects popular usage, it severely distorts biblical truth. Ministry is not the activity of a spiritual aristocracy or the work of a professional class. Rather, it is the lifestyle, responsibility, and privilege of every believer. A philosophy of ministry that fails to recognize this fact can be truly biblical. On the other hand a rejection of a spiritual aristocracy must not lead to the opposite extreme: a spiritual anarchy that fails to recognize the differing gifts Christ has given to members of His body.

The New Testament uses several terms to express the concept of ministry. Every believer is a slave (δοῦλος) of the Lord Jesus.1 People in the ancient world despised slaves since it meant living without freedom under the authority of another. Believers, however, rejoice in the dignity of being the Lord’s slaves. As Hansen observed, “Only a few (Israelites) are distinguished by the title, ‘My servant.’ To be called ‘my servant’ by God was a great and exceptional honour.”2 Every Christian is privileged to be a “slave” of the Lord Jesus, living to please Him (Gal 1:10) and to serve others (Gal 5:13).

The word ὑπηρέτης (“helpers, assistants, officers, stewards”) emphasizes the steward...

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